What Are Sinuses?

Oct 13, 2021

What Are Sinuses?

5 minute read

Your sinuses are interconnected cavities inside your skull covered in a layer of tissue called the mucosa. On top of the mucosa is a thin layer of mucus that keeps your sinuses lubricated. Scientists think that our sinuses primarily serve as humidifiers for our lungs, keeping the air we breathe higher in moisture. However, the jury is still out on why we have sinuses.

The Four Types of Sinuses

Your paranasal sinuses are located in different spots at the front of your skull. Here are the four different types and where to find them:

Maxillary Sinuses

Your maxillary sinuses are the largest of the four types. They're right at the top of your cheekbone area on both sides of your nose. If you've ever experienced sinus pressure in your cheeks, it was coming from this group of sinuses.

Ethmoid Sinuses

The ethmoid sinuses are right between your eyes. If you've ever experienced a headache due to sinus pressure and felt the need to pinch between your eyes for relief, you've been pressing on your ethmoid sinuses and sphenoid sinuses.

Sphenoid Sinuses

Your sphenoid sinuses are situated in the bones that sit behind your nose. They're neighbors with your ethmoid sinuses.

Frontal Sinuses

Your frontal sinuses are at the lowest point on your forehead, right above your eyebrows. These sinuses drain back into your nasal cavity, with drainage going through the frontonasal duct.

Problems With Your Sinuses

Several medical conditions can have an impact on your sinuses, causing lots of discomfort and even pain. The most common is a sinus infection (acute sinusitis), which occurs when you get a virus or are exposed to bacteria that causes inflammation in your sinuses. The main symptoms of sinusitis are pain and congestion in the areas where your sinuses are located – between your eyes, your lower forehead, and your cheeks.

While acute sinusitis might be the most common sinus condition, it's not the only one. Here are several more conditions that affect your sinuses.

Chronic Sinusitis: When Sinus Infections Last Too Long

A normal sinus infection goes away after about a week. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, can last for months. This condition develops when your sinuses are constantly inflamed, leading to debilitating pressure and congestion. You may develop chronic sinusitis if you suffer from severe seasonal allergies, especially if your symptoms aren't properly addressed or treated.

In some cases, chronic sinusitis has to be treated by surgery. Your doctor may recommend surgery if you've been suffering from chronic sinus inflammation for a long time and haven't had any success with other treatments. However, this route is more of a last resort than a first option in most cases.

Nasal Polyps

These growths can cause problems in your nasal cavity and often develop as a result of chronic sinusitis. Polyps can also be caused by inflammation from severe allergies or asthma. If you deal with nasal polyps, you may not experience any symptoms at all. However, the polyps can sometimes decrease your ability to smell, leave you with a stuffy nose, or cause discomfort in your sinus area.

If you think you might have nasal polyps, your doctor will most likely perform a careful examination of your nose using what's called an endoscope. The endoscope allows your doctor to look at the inside of your nose and determine whether there are any polyps present.

Suppose your doctor does find nasal polyps in your nasal cavity. In that case, they may recommend getting an allergy test to see if you are an allergic person and treat your underlying allergies, which can decrease the inflammation that caused the polyps in the first place.

Hay Fever

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is caused by breathing in allergens that float in the air and blow on the wind. These particles include molds, pollen, dust mites, and more, and they can trigger a wide array of uncomfortable symptoms.

Hay fever symptoms include a sore throat, postnasal drip, a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and more. To get relief from these symptoms, your doctor or allergist may recommend that you take antihistamines or undergo immunotherapy treatments. Without treatment, your allergies may lead to other issues like sinus infections or nasal polyps.

Deviated Septum

Your nasal septum is a combination of bone and cartilage that separates the two airways that run through your nose. If one of your nasal passages is much bigger or smaller than the other, you're dealing with a deviated septum. In more severe cases, a deviated septum can result in reduced airflow through one of your nostrils.

In some cases, a deviated septum can cause problems with your sinuses, including the two different types of sinusitis – chronic and acute. If you end up dealing with sinus conditions due to your deviated septum, your doctor might advise you to get surgery to even out the size of your nasal passages.

What Helps With Sinus Conditions?

If you’re suffering from sinusitis or another sinus condition, getting treatment as soon as possible is recommended. The symptoms of these conditions are uncomfortable, but they can also get worse if left untreated.

Depending on the specific condition you’re suffering from, your doctor might recommend taking antibiotics to recover as fast as possible. This is especially the case if you’re dealing with sinusitis that was caused by bacteria.

Sometimes, your doctor will simply recommend that you use an over-the-counter medicine to find relief from sinus conditions. Nasal decongestants, saline spray, and non-prescription antihistamines can help deal with acute sinusitis and other milder conditions.

Ready To Get Some Relief?

If you’re dealing with pain and discomfort in your sinuses due to allergies, we can help. Set up a remote consultation with one of our experienced allergists, and we’ll get started with helping you find a treatment that works for you.


Chronic Sinusitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments | Cleveland Clinic

Overview - Allergic rhinitis | NHS UK

Deviated septum - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic



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